We lie to ourselves quite frequently, us humans. We have the ability to conceal cognitive dissonance from our awareness in ways which are quite staggering, whether with the incoherence between religion and skeptical thinking or between our actual desires we have deep down and the way we actually live. Those internal lies expand into lies to others, ultimately, and create unhealthy relationships. It is better, I think, to explore all of our desires, share them, and (when possible) have them.
Now, there are obviously people out there that don’t lie to themselves or others in this way. These people truly explore what they want, are honest about those things, and have largely happy lives. Sure, they may sacrifice some temporary or insignificant desires in order to have what is more important, but generally they live their lives as they want to. And such people live lives of many varieties, including monogamy, asexuality, and the varieties of non-monogamous lifestyles. I want it to be out of the way at the beginning that my argument here is NOT that honesty and authenticity necessarily lead to polyamory, because that is quite obviously not true.
My argument is that if more people were honest with themselves and with other people, more people may be polyamorous (perhaps), but certainly more people would have healthy relationships however those relationships are structured. And as another side of this coin, I think that many people usually end up attempting monogamy because they are not being honest with themselves or their partner(s).
I am willing to wager that a significant percentage of people entering into an exclusive relationship are doing so by default or in the name of pragmatism. They either have no conception of other realistic options, don’t think they will meet anyone who will want those other options, or don’t think they could actually do it themselves.
So they lie to themselves that they can be happy being exclusive, and don’t even mention this as a sacrifice to their potential partners (because it offends the monogamous morale to do so). It becomes a background which is rarely openly discussed, and so monogamy is attained without as much as a conversation. That’s what it means for monogamy to be the cultural default; it’s never decided upon, it just happens because that discussion of other options is too likely to cause discomfort or even termination of a potentially good relationship.
And what happens so very often? Cheating, or at least thoughts about cheating which lead to resentment and damage to the relationship (because they don’t talk about those thoughts), which often leads to a monotonous life with sparks of fun here and there. It leads, essentially, to a life not lived fully or authentically. It leads to having unexplored desires, unexplored because many of our desires are not compatible with the fairy-tale of finding “the one” and being “Happy ever-after.”
Yes, I am the Anti-Disney.
There are expectations built into our culture which nudge us towards a largely unrealistic way of living which is not coherent with the desires that humans tend to have. We rationalize our decisions to seek exclusivity as a sacrifice towards loftier goals, because those other desires are somehow wrong, destructive, or simply unrealistic. But over the years we still flirt, fantasize, and sometimes go for that hot piece of ass anyway. And rather find a new potential partner, lover, and friend we destroy relationships and cause harm where harm is not necessary if we were just honest with what we wanted.
We are human beings with complex desires which do not fit neatly into the boxes our culture often finds acceptable. And yet these boxes are so resilient and popular. These ideals and goals that people seek in our culture are just so, well, silly. And when they are challenged (by freaks like me) those same ideals becomes so, well, sacred.
I guess it’s no surprise that I find sacred things silly.
And in a way, the word sacred is not stretching the term too much. It is pretty clear that the role of religion in these cultural ideas about relationships is significant, but even insofar as these ideas have become secular, they are coveted and central to much of our lives in a way which is at least analogous to sacredness.
And it’s all because we ignore our real desires, pretend that they will not affect our relationships, and invest in relationships which do not match what we really want. All because we don’t honestly explore and talk about what we really want, all too often. And when those chickens come home to roost, we find that our desires destroy the sham relationships we have constructed.
A relationship built upon lies cannot stand forever. And wherein it does stand, it will not provide happy shelter for very long. Relationships are hard, and they are not made easier by attempting to live a life which does not match our desires. No one person can fulfill all of our needs and wants all the time, and it is irrational to allow our fears, insecurities, and jealousies to prevent us from having what we want.
So if you do want other people in your life, why would you pretend otherwise? Yes, sacrifice of small, insignificant, and temporary desires is healthy for a relationship, but when that sacrifice is something which perpetuates, festers, and creates (often silent) resentment…well that’s not healthy.
Polyamory is an option for relationships for people who genuinely still care about each other but simply desire something more. Do not allow the expectations of culture, religion, or your own acculturation to limit your imagination to the small, parochial boxes of exclusivity and fairy-tale love. Be honest with yourself, with those closest to you, and through work and courage to overcome your own fears and insecurities you can have whatever you want in this short, potentially wonderful, life.
We need a world of adults who are willing to challenge themselves and their worldviews. Because only with such people can we make the world and the lives of individuals better.